X Warrior Challenge – Calgary 2016

As the elite male racers were corralled to the start line I moseyed my way up to towards the front. With this being the first X Warrior event, I assumed the competition would be relatively light which may actually give me a shot at the podium. Granted I didn’t recognize everyone around me in the elite heat, so there could always be surprises. However, Josh Stryde and Kristian Wieclawek were present and I was damn certain they’d take 1st and 2nd place so I’d be battling it out for 3rd with everyone else.

X Warriors getting ready to tackle the course

Racers were sent off in waves of 10 roughly every 2 minutes. I managed to get myself into the first wave of 10. Josh and Kristian were also in this heat, and as the clear front runners of the race I was hoping that I’d be able to keep them relatively close and have them pull me along in the race as I try to keep up.

Immediately off the starting line the course sent us up into the stands of the Calgary Stampede Grandstand. The stairs were relatively shallow and the sets were short, making for easy running.

As we made are way across the stadium running up and down the stairs we had to run through rows of seats to get to the next set of stairs. The rows were narrow and I nicked my legs against more than one chair as I ran through.

Coming out of the lower bowl of the stadium onto the concourse level we encountered our first obstacle, a small wall. Still early on in the race are wave of 10 was still very close together at this point, as we all sprinted down the concourse to the other side of the stadium.

At the other side of the stadium we encountered another set of stairs and a new obstacle, the Spider Stairs. Spider Stairs forces races to crawl up the flights of stairs by tying bungee cords from handrail to handrail.

spider stairs
X Warrior Spider Stairs

Getting down on all fours and climbing up the stairs wasn’t very hard. However being a bigger guy, the bungee cords rubbed on my back, giving me a nice rope burn as I made my way through.

The Spider Stairs took us to the second level of the stadium, where we entered the rows of seats and completed more stair repeats. Our pack was still tight as it was hard to pass or make big moves in the confines of the stadium stairs.

Once across the stadium, we bolted down a large set of stairs that took us out on to the chuck wagon track. I was trailing a few seconds behind Josh and Kristian, and I was feeling good as we took to the flats. Running hard, I didn’t try to make ground on Kristian and Josh, rather I was trying to not let them get to far away.

I was able to stay within a few seconds of them as we ran through the Wedge, Tip of the Spear, Rabbit Hole, Army (barbed wire crawl), and Warped Wall.

wedge and tip
Left: X Warrior Wedge Right: X Warrior Tip of the Spear

At the Hurdles I fell behind simply because I could not carry my speed through this obstacle. The Hurdles required us to hop over a bar, and then crawl under another, this process repeated multiple times. My technique was poor which allowed for Josh and Kristian to pull further ahead. My poor execution also allowed for the guy behind me (Kody) to catch up (not like he was far behind) and pass me.

Frustrated I tried to regain my position and catch Kody. Reaching the traverse wall at the same time as Kody, I began to navigate the obstacle. I made my way across the obstacle quickly…or so I thought. As I finished the traverse wall I looked up to see Kody a solid distance ahead of me. I was shocked and impressed at how quickly he got through the traverse wall.

Turning the corner we headed out on a long straight out and back section. I could see Kody ahead of me, but Josh and Kristian were nowhere in sight. Josh and Kristian had either bolted away from the rest of us…or they ran off course.

Regardless of what happened to Kristian and Josh my goal was now to catch Kody. I was still feeling strong, so I put together a solid stride and caught back up to Kody. Once back on Kody’s heels he turned around and asked “where’d those other guys go?” I told him I had no idea. We both shrugged our shoulders and kept going assuming they almost certainly had gone off course.

View Photo: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/viewphoto/19911-110-27753045/1/
I make some great faces on the monkey bars

I matched Kody’s pace and we got to the balance beam at the same time. The balance beam was narrow, long and straight. I took a few deep breaths and began to make my way along the beam. A little wobbly I took my time making it just over halfway…and I fell off. I dropped a big F bomb as I stumbled off the balance beam and saw Kody complete it.

Off I went to do my 20 burpees, watching Kody run away from me. I did my 20 burpees at a decent pace, scraping my knees along the way (doing burpees on pavement sucks). Admittedly I think I could have done them faster but regardless I got them done.

By the time I was done with my burpees, Kody was way out of sight and another guy had come to the balance beam and passed me. So I had some work to do. Breathing heavily, I gritted my teeth, and started to run. My legs felt like they were full of lead as I struggled to regain my previous pace.

Running after doing burpees always feels like hell. It’s a skill that I have not practiced at all this year and it has cost me greatly.

View Photo: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/viewphoto/19911-110-27748042/1/
Climbing over the final obstacle at the X Warrior Challenge

I managed to get my legs going again and caught the guy ahead of me. I was now 4th in my wave and was hoping to hunt down Kody, hoping being the keyword here. I would have loved to catch up to Kody, but I honestly was not doing a whole lot to achieve this. I was running hard but I was not pushing myself to my limits.

By the time I made it to the bucket carry, I finally caught site of Kody. He was already done the bucket carry and a long ways beyond it. For a second I thought he may be in striking distance, until I realized how far away he actually was.

Then to my shock I saw a guy in green magically ahead of me. I knew he didn’t start with my wave, with only 10 people in each wave I’d remember seeing a bright neon green shirt. Also pictures confirm that he started in the third wave (yeah I creeped the photos but I needed to know!). I know damn sure that no one else passed me at the balance beam or anywhere else on the course so this guy must have skipped the course too. A quick chat with the guy behind me confirmed my suspicions as he was shocked at the magical appearance of the guy in green as well.

Now I was pissed off because of how close this guy in green was to me. Not only was he close but he was old (I know old people can be fast, I’ve been beaten by them before. But I could beat this guy)! Even though I knew he’d be getting a faster time than me in the results there was no way I was going to let him stay ahead of me. I had to prove to myself and him that I am faster than him even if he skipped a section of the course. I needed to cross the line before the guy in green.

I filled my bucket up with dirt and carried it along the flat track. The bucket was very light (must be the Calgary dirt). Although light, I didn’t clue in to the fact that I could run with the bucket till well over halfway through the obstacle. I picked up my pace and dumped off my bucket.

X Warrior using the stairs to there advantage for the sandbag carry

Heading back towards the stadium area, Kody and the guy in green were out of sight. I made my way into the stadium where I caught a glimpse of the guy in green as he headed out of the stadium towards the sandbag carry.

Waiting for me inside the stadium area was the Axe Throw. I picked up my axe, took a few deep breaths and threw the axe with a forceful yet gentle touch. The axe rotated once in the air, and planted itself into the target. With no hesitation I was back out on the course to catch the man in green.

The man in green was well into his sandbag carry by the time I grabbed my bag. I heaved my sandbag onto my shoulder and pushed myself hard up and down the stadium stairs. I made up some ground on the guy ahead of me but still hadn’t caught up to him.

Hot on his heels I chased him back into the stadium area. There were only two more obstacles between us and the finish line.

The rope climb came first. I really needed to beat this guy to assure myself that I am indeed faster than him! He made it to the rope climb half a step before me. When I got to my rope I jumped as high as I could and pulled myself up, locked my feet into rope and continued my ascent. I reached the top of the rope in two pulls and passed the guy in green.

View Photo: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/viewphoto/19911-110-27748475/1/
As you can see it was a very close finish, to beat the guy who skipped the course.

Now it was a quick sprint up and over a triangle like ladder, and onto the finish line! I crossed the line ahead of the man in green but I knew the results would say differently. But at this point I didn’t care about the results this was for my own peace of mind.

I finished the race in 31:05 putting me in 5th place on the results sheet. However I know that I actually got 4th place because the man in green (or Ian Lowe-Wylde. The power of complete results and Facebook is frightening), skipped a good section of the course. Therefore given that he skipped a section of the course and I was still able to cross the finish line before him justifies my 4th place position in my mind.

View Photo: http://www.zoomphoto.ca/viewphoto/19911-110-27748478/1/
Running hard to the finish of the first X Warrior Challenge

If you want to get really technical I could say that I got 2nd in this race, because Josh and Kristian both ran off course as well. But I’m not bothered by the fact that Josh and Kristian ran off course and still beat me. Josh and Kristian were easily the top athletes at this race and had they ran the correct course there is still no doubt in my mind that they would come in 1st and 2nd place. Keep in mind they ran off course by accident, and with no malicious or cheating intent. The course markings were admittedly a little confusing at the point where Josh and Kristian veered off course.

The thing that pisses me off most about this race was that I had a real shot at 3rd. I was running well and feeling strong, but as soon as I had to do 20 burpees that gap between myself and 3rd place was too great. I have no one to blame but myself for not coming in 3rd, and now I can’t stop thinking about “what if.” What if I had completed that balance beam would I have gotten 3rd? I’m 99% sure that I would have. No disgrace to Kody as he ran a great race but he only beat me by 54 seconds which is a lot of time for sure, but I had to do burpees. So had I not done burpees I think I could have done the work to beat him. But who knows had I been there racing with Kody maybe he’d have another gear that I don’t know about. Either way that would have made for a more exciting finish.

That’s what makes the sport of OCR so thrilling and challenging, you have to perfect if you want to do well. Any burpees that you have to do kill your time/pace and it’s damn hard to make that time back up.

Well at least I know I need to work on my balance obstacles. I’ve failed 3 of 4 balance obstacles I’ve faced this year…not good.



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